Food and Farming

Our Mission is to support the revitalization of a sustainable local food system in Western North Carolina while preserving our mountain farm heritage.

Organic Growers School was awarded $25,000 for general operating support, including support for programming that provides WNC farmers with individualized support, advanced education, and mentoring services to enhance farmer success and sustainability. Photo courtesy of Organic Growers School.

Supporting the Local Food System and Addressing Food Insecurity

According to Feeding America, one in eight people (one in six children) in the United States is food insecure, and WNC’s food insecurity problems run even deeper: nearly one in four children is food insecure. Although federal Food and Nutrition Services provides some relief, people who are food insecure are still unlikely to qualify for assistance. That leaves too many struggling to keep themselves and their families fed and healthy.

Closely related to food insecurity is the challenge WNC faces to preserve farmland and thereby to ensure locally-grown fruits, vegetables, and other food products for the region. As farmland in WNC becomes difficult or impossible for farmers to access, the result is a loss of rural, agricultural heritage and the associated local and regional farm economy.

“In WNC, one in four children are food insecure. But there are pockets where as many as four in five kids don’t have enough healthy food to eat.”

— Amy Sims, Western Zone Coordinator and Agency Relations Manager, MANNA FoodBank

A $41,000 Food and Farming grant to Macon County Public Health for MountainWise continues support for the Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB) program in Buncombe, Jackson, Haywood, Transylvania, Madison and Rutherford counties. DUFB is a national proven model, supported by the Fair Food Network and largely funded by the USDA, that provides a $1:$1 match for SNAP/EBT customers to spend on fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables. DUFB increases SNAP participants’ spending power and access to fruits and vegetables while generating income for farmers and small food retailers, investing in the local economy, and strengthening the local food system. Photo by Michael Oppenheim.

How We are Making a Difference

Goals and Objectives

We aim to increase opportunities for local farmers and food entrepreneurs who support the sustainability and profitability of WNC farms and address food insecurity and facilitate nutrition and healthy eating for all.

We will make grants to:

  1. bolster marketing efforts for local foods, including branding, post-harvest aggregation, distribution and value-added facilities;
  2. support new or transitioning farmers with technical assistance in production and marketing, business training and access to land;
  3. increase access to fresh local foods for all, especially low income families; and
  4. build the capacity of nonprofit organizations to address these goals.

Photo courtesy of The Utopian Seed Project.

Sustainability One Okra at a Time

The Utopian Seed Project (USP) describes itself as a “hands in the earth nonprofit committed to trialing crops and varieties in the Southeast to support diversity in food and farming.” Picture a passionate network of crop scientists, foodies, farmers, chefs and others working to develop a regional seed hub to support, encourage and celebrate a diverse food system of regionally-adapted crops. It is an inspiring goal, solidly based in science, of working to create food security in the face of climate change through diverse and regenerative agriculture.

CFWNC recently awarded $30,000 to USP to support a sustainable regional food and farming system by preserving and promoting varietal diversity in traditional southern crops, experimenting with growing tropical perennials as temperate annuals and exploring underutilized perennial food crops, many of which are native to the region.

“Our food system is built on a narrow range of top-performing hybrid varieties, but this tendency towards monoculture is frightening,” said USP Executive Director Chris Smith. “Varietal diversity means genetic diversity, and with that comes an inherent strength and resilience. We believe this diversity-supported resilience will become critical as we continue to face climate-related challenges.”

The Terrence Lee One Love Fund and Dogwood Charitable Endowment Fund provided co-investment for this grant.

To learn more about our Food and Farming focus area, contact Philip Belcher, Vice President for Programs, at 828-367-9901.